Category: Blog

Category: Blog

2021 Canadian Barley Harvest & Quality Update


Written November 8, 2021

The 2021 barley harvest in western Canada was largely wrapped up by the end of September this year, with the exception of a few areas such as the Peace which were completed in October.  By all accounts 2021 was one of the worst growing seasons in a generation with dismal results in terms of both the quantity and quality of this year’s barley crop in western Canada.  Statistics Canada’s Model based principal field crop estimates, released September 14, forecast average barley yields in Canada at 43.6 bushels per acre, down 38% from 2020 yields of 71.1 bushels and the lowest since the 2002 figure of 41.5 bushels per acre.  Provincially, the estimates show Saskatchewan was the hardest hit with average yields pegged by StatCan at 35.1 bu/acre, quite similar to the province’s estimate of 34 bushels, or 52% of the 5-year average.  Alberta fared a little better with yields estimated at 49.6 bushels per acre, 69% of the 5-year average, while Manitoba at an estimated 58.8 bushels would be at 84% of the 5-year average.  However, the Alberta government estimated yields at 42.5 bushels in their October 5th report, well below StatCan, and as a result the StatCan final figures for Alberta, and Canada, may come down in the final report in December.

Estimated Yields in the Prairie Provinces


  Alberta Saskatchewan Manitoba Canada
5-Yr Ave (StatCan) 72.2 67.4 76.9 69.8
2021 (StanCan) 49.6 35.1 58.8 43.6
2021 (Prov. est) 42.5 34.0 N/a

All Canada barley production is estimated by StatCan at 7.141 million tonnes, on par with 2014 of 7.118 mln tonnes, however seeded area that year was 5.97 mln acres compared with 8.30 mln acres in 2021, almost 30% lower.  With respect to harvested area, StatCan has estimated that producers harvested 90.2% of barley seeded area this year compared with 91.8% in 2020.  The seems a little optimistic under the circumstances, and given the 5-year average is 89.9%.  In 2002, the last time there was wide spread drought on the Prairies, harvested area was 66% of seeded area. With the potential for both yields and harvested area to drop in StatCan’s final, survey-based estimates to be released on December 3rd, the industry will not be surprised to see a “6” as the first number of total Canadian barley crop output in 2021.   

Quality Implications

The result of the dry, hot growing season is a barley crop with very high protein content, reduced plump kernels and generally greater heterogeneity in the kernel size, as well as lower test weight. While the protein levels are virtually unprecedented, averaging above 14%, in the early tested barley that the industry has received, plumpness and test weights have not proven to be as bad as one might have predicted given the extraordinarily dry and hot growing conditions this past summer. This suggests that a combination of newer varieties, with apparent improved capacity to adapt and tolerate drought conditions, and modern production practices, appear to have mitigated at least some of the impact of the drought, which may have been much worse 20 years ago.  

The table below shows the average results of barley quality in the samples received and evaluated from the western Canadian field trials to date.  Among the 8 locations, protein content averaged 14.8% compared with an overall average from all 25 stations of 11.4% in 2020.  Germination is well below last year, but close to the industry minimum standard of 95%, while water sensitivity is low.  Thousand kernel weight and plumps, while below last year, are relatively good all things considered.

2021 Quality Results – Western Canadian Field Trials (Average of 10 varieties*)

  Moisture % Protein % Germination Energy % 1,000 k wt grams Plumpness %** RVA***
Melita 10.9 15.7 97.1 41.3 90.9 177
Rosebank 10.1 13.8 98.0 40.9 76.3 165
Westlock 10.8 14.1 86.9 49.0 89.7 143
St. Albert 10.3 15.2 86.5 47.8 88.8 141
Watrous 10.9 16.6 98.2 49.5 93.3 171
Lake Lenore 10.4 14.8 96.9 47.5 95.0 144
Portage 11.2 15.0 93.2 47.2 95.5 28
Avonlea 10.7 13.3 99.6 45.7 97.5 154
Prince Albert 11.3 13.0 81.2 42.9 87.0 4
Roblin 11.9 12.9 68.0 47.7 98.2 3
Redvers 11.5 12.5 80.2 44.0 95.1 80
Average 2021 10.9 14.3 89.6 45.8 91.6 110
Average 2020 11.6 11.4 97.1 48.2 91.1 147

*Varieties grown in trials include AC Metcalfe, CDC Copeland, AAC Synergy, AAC Connect, CDC Fraser, CDC Bow, Lowe, CDC Copper, CDC Churchill, TR17255.

**Percent of kernels over 6/64″ sieve.

***Rapid Visco Analysis – An indication of pre-harvest sprout (PHS) damage.  Lower values indicate greater presence of PHS.

But this year, growers and maltsters have another issue to contend with.  To add insult to injury, after two months of virtually no precipitation in much of the Prairies, suffering under a phenomenon known as a “heat dome”, rain and in some cases hail arrived in the third week of August, further reducing the potential supply of useable malting barley in western Canada as barley that was in the swath or even standing in the field, started to germinate resulting in significant pre-harvest sprout damage (PHSD).  When sprouting occurs, it triggers an increase in alpha-amylase, an enzyme that breaks down starch in the barley kernel. While malting barley can still be used when there is a small amount of PHSD, if the process has gone too far the barley will be unusable by maltsters due to factors such as loss of germination, uneven water-uptake and poor growth during processing.  Interestingly, the RVAs, which is an indication of PDSD, are actually quite high in the samples received at the CMBTC to date, which suggests that these locations were either harvested before the rains, or were not subject to the moisture at harvest time that other areas received.

In other years, when quality challenges arise, the malting industry would typically be able to rely in part on the carry in stocks from the previous growing season to blend and mitigate the worst impacts for at least the first portion of the marketing season. However, with record low carry out stocks of 500,000 coming into 2021 after the largest export program over 25 years, there is very little 2020 crop left to blend creating the perfect storm.  The end result is that there simply isn’t enough quality malting barley to supply Canada’s malting industry in the 2021-22 marketing year. This means the industry will have to resort to pushing the limits on the quality of the barley they select and process, employ extraordinarily sophisticated and precise approaches to evaluation and processing, and look at innovative techniques in manufacturing and blending to achieve the best possible malt products under the circumstances. In spite of this, malt processors may ultimately have to reduce their production and sales program, and in some cases resort to imported malting barley. 

In summary, the quality characteristics of the 2021 malting barley crop will make for an extremely challenging year for maltsters and brewers alike to process and achieve quality end products. All told, this will be one of the most difficult years Canada’s barley value chain has ever seen.  

Global Beer Industry Update


2020 was a difficult year for the global brewing industry. While estimates vary, there is general agreement that world beer production was down between 7-10% this past year. Certain regions were particularly hard hit such as Africa, Asia and Europe with output drops in the order of 10-15%, while North and South America fared better with production down 2-5%. In China, the world’s largest brewer, production is estimated to have fallen by 8-10%, or 30-35 million hectolitres. To put that in perspective, total Canadian beer production is around 20 million hectolitres. In Japan, beer sales reportedly dropped 9% in 2020, while in Vietnam beer production is estimated to have fallen 14%. Mexico, which shuttered breweries for over 2 months during the April-June period last year, saw a production drop of about 5%.

Europe was also hard hit with production estimated to have fallen overall by 9%. In contrast, the impact on total beer output in Canada and the United states was less pronounced with production estimated to have fallen by only 2-3%. A dramatic increase in retail sales in the U.S. and Canada made up for a substantial portion of the drop in on-premise sales, sales at concerts and sporting events etc. This resulted in a major increase in sales of canned, and to a lesser extent bottled, beer (leading to a shortage in aluminum cans) although there was a corresponding dramatic drop in keg sales. In Canada, beer sales volumes dropped by less that 1% in 2020 compared with 2019 according to Beer Canada data.

Looking forward, the recovery in 2021 has already begun in many parts of the world. China’s beer production is estimated to have recovered to close to pre-pandemic levels already, and similarly in Europe things are improving. However the consensus is that in many countries, 2021 will be a year of gaining back sales lost in 2020 to return to 2019 levels as opposed to a year of growth. As one malting industry representative commented recently, while we haven’t turned the corner yet, at least we can see it.

Crop Protection Update


The plant growth regulator chlormequat chloride (Manipulator) has been updated to Yellow/Be Informed under Keep it Clean for use on all Barley in Canada (malt, feed and food).   Malting barley had previously been classified as yellow. This classification is a signal to producers to check with their grain buyers before using Manipulator on barley to ensure it will be accepted.  Most malting companies and some grain companies have signaled they will not accept barley treated with Manipulator.  Manipulator is classified as green/acceptable for wheat and oats.

2021 Seeding Considerations


Opportunities for New Canadian Malting Barley Varieties

CDC Bow, AAC Connect & CDC Fraser

Canada’s barley breeders have developed a promising suite of new malting barley varieties such as CDC Bow, AAC Connect and CDC Fraser each with excellent agronomics and disease resistance. These new varieties are poised to succeed older, established varieties such as AC Metcalfe and CDC Copeland. They have very desirable malting and brewing characteristics, reinforcing Canada’s position as a supplier of premium quality barley and malt, and increasingly these new varieties are being accepted by domestic and international maltsters and brewers.

Click the link below to see the CMBTC’s 2021 malting barley seeding considerations with regard to variety selection, yield potential, lodging and protein targets.

2021 Malting Barley Seeding Considerations



2020 Canada Barley Crop Year Video


Each year, the CMBTC hosts customers of Canadian malting barley and malt for new crop tours to see the barley near the end of the growing season and during harvest, meet the farmers that grow their barley, and the industry that delivers it. Given in the summer of 2020 we were not able to host a new crop tour, we put together this video to give customers a sense of the crop year, and have the opportunity to see some images of the 2020 Canadian malting barley crop and hear from some of the farmers.  Enjoy!


2020 Canada Barley Crop Year Video

See other videos at our CMBTC YouTube channel below.

CMBTC-Malt Academy YouTube Channel

Viral Beer Videos


Given we are all stuck at home these days, spend a few minutes enjoying some great beer videos!

Molson Canadian – Made from Canada

Molson Canadian – I am Canadian

Bud Light

Bud Light – Clothing Drive






2020 Barley Harvest webpage


In a normal summer, in partnership with our stakeholders, the CMBTC would typically host a new crop tour with customers from around the world.  During the tour, we would generally visit farms in Alberta or Saskatchewan, check out malting barley research plots, and visit other points along the value chain such as an elevator, a malt plant or a breeding centre.  Since it was not possible to do a physical tour this year, we created this web page to provide customers with a virtual tour of the 2020 western Canadian barley crop year and harvest.  Check it out and enjoy!

2020 Barley harvest webpage




Official harvest progress by Province:

  • As of October 13, Alberta barley harvest is estimated at 97.8% complete (source AB Ag).
  • As of October 12, Saskatchewan barley harvest is estimated at 100% complete (source SK Ag).
  • As of October 13 , Manitoba barley harvest is estimated at 99% complete (source MB Ag).



Official harvest progress by Province:

  • As of October 6, Alberta barley harvest is estimated at 94% complete (source AB Ag).
  • As of October 5, Saskatchewan barley harvest is estimated at 99% complete (source SK Ag).
  • As of October 6, Manitoba barley harvest is estimated at 99% complete (source MB Ag).

Canadian Beer Day


Its October 7th, which means its Canadian Beer Day!   Tip one back and check out the following videos posted on the Beer Canada You Tube channel.  In addition to this year’s Canadian Beer Day video, see also videos that provide an overview of the malting and brewing processes, as well as a variety of beer related topics, featuring CMBTC staff members Andrew Nguyen and Aaron Onio. Cheers!!

Canadian Beer Day 2020

CMBTC Videos